Part of Your Smile, Your Health™ Series, a division of Sleep Fitness, LLC
Co-authored by Keelyn Ross
What are the benefits of nasal breathing?
There is a right way to breathe and a wrong way to breathe. The right way is through the nose, the wrong way is through the mouth. Nasal breathing benefits the body on multiple levels because the nose is super equipped to process incoming air. The nose has a built-in humidifier and filtration system, so when air enters through the nasal passages, it's warmed and moistened. It is also equipped to sense and destroy harmful bacteria before it enters the body. This means the respiratory system is being supplied with high quality air, which leads to cellular health. Conversely, the mouth will not purify the air before entering the body such that higher amounts of carbon dioxide create a toxic environment. Mouth breathing also causes a lack of oxygen to the brain, which could lead to underdevelopment, and possibly sensory or auditory disorders, such as autism or attention deficit disorder (ADD). This is why it is paramount for everyone, especially new parents, to understand the importance of their child forming good breathing habits.
What are the long-term consequences of chronic mouth breathing?
If someone develops a mouth breathing habit during their developmental years, they are unknowingly programming their body to have a small, set back jaw, a tiny chin and a long face. This is because bones grow in the position they're 'trained to'. If the mouth is open, the entire bone and neuromuscular development follows in suit. Besides aesthetic considerations, that same person most likely suffers from temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), commonly referred to as TMJ, meaning their upper and lower jaw do not close in a balanced fashion. This often leads to crooked teeth, chronic headaches and respiratory distress.
5 Characteristics of Mouth Breathing
1. Small & weak looking jaw
2. Forward head posture
3. Lip incompetency (unable to seal)
4. Small, dysfunctional nostrils
5. Underdeveloped or set back jaw
Are there at-home steps parents can take to ensure their child breathes through their nose?
Yes! Make sure they do not suck their thumb, clench or grind their teeth. You can also incorporate a technique developed by Dr. K. Buteyko called mouth taping, where surgical paper tape is placed over the mouth while sleeping, ensuring the child is breathing through their nose at night. There are also a variety of yoga breathing exercises that focus on correct and controlled breathing. Last but not least, teaming up with a myofunctional orofacial therapist can teach your child exercises they can do at home.
Note: Please consult with your healthcare physician before moving forward with any medical advice.
What about the kids who suffer from chronic sinus infections?
Board-certified otolaryngologists who sub-specialize in sleep medicine will assess the respiratory needs of the child and advise the best course of action for them to adequately breathe. Board-certified dentists who sub-specialize in sleep medicine will also be able to assess the anatomy and function of the child's craniofacial development and offer treatment solutions. Some dentists have in-house myofunctional orofacial therapists who ensure the child's neuromuscular development is on par with correct anatomical functioning.
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Thank you to my research staff, Al-Nazish Jiwani